We hate to be the bearers of bad news but bacteria, fungi, and viruses thrive in your gym. In fact, it’s like a life-sized petri dish.
Thanks to swapping machines, sharing humid and hot spaces like saunas, and sweaty bodies, gyms are actually a safe haven for microorganisms, especially fungi.
These nasty creatures can cause some serious and gross skin infections that could be scaly, oozing, itching, burning or more.
Fungi are common culprits behind a variety of skin conditions and problems.
Fungi and other organisms take every opportunity to build a home in the moist, warm creases of your skin.
In this article, we’re going to tell you how to protect yourself from getting infected by fungus from the gym.
Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)
Contrary to popular belief, there aren’t actually any worms present in a ringworm infestation.
The term ringworm was coined because the fungus appears on the skin in the shape of a ring with raised borders and thickness of a worm along with a scaly texture.
The fungus, tinea corporis, is highly contagious and thrives in moist and sweaty environments.
This means you’re most likely to catch this one at the gym in the shower, carpeted stretched areas, and on communal yoga mats.
An effective way to prevent getting this infection is to properly disinfect areas with antimicrobial sprays and wipes that are available at the gym.
You can use Clorox wipes or just use store-bought isopropyl alcohol, witch hazel or tea tree oil to disinfect these areas.
While these are all effective against fungus from the gym, you will most likely find a few options at the gym itself.
In case you do contract the infection, you will most likely need an antifungal topical cream such as terbinafine or clotrimazole.
These topical medicines are usually enough but in some cases if the infection is too widespread, your doctor might prescribe an oral antifungal regimen too.
Skin Yeast (Tinea Versicolor)
This one might not be an infection per se, neither is it too contagious. Even though it’s not too dangerous, it’s very common in sweaty conditions.
The yeast (tinea versicolor) produces a kind of bleaching agent that leaves behind white or light-colored spots on the skin.
These spots can be extremely itchy and will take months to subside. As with other types of fungi, this fungus also flourishes with sweat.
Therefore, you are at a high risk of getting affected if you live in humid environments or hang out in sweaty gym clothes.
The best way to keep your skin in good condition and yeast-free is by using an exfoliant that contains antimicrobial substances such as zinc or tea tree oil.
However, if you already have skin yeast, one way to get rid of it is to use anti-dandruff shampoo on your skin.
Anti-dandruff shampoos are usually packed with ingredients like selenium sulfide or zinc pyrithione that are antifungal.
Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)
Now this name is quite well known. Athlete’s foot is probably the most common fungal infection you can pick at the gym.
The fungus that causes this infection is the same as the one that causes ringworm.
The only difference is that it’s located on the feet and toes and can move to the toenails. It looks and feels like an itchy rash—inflamed, red, and scaly.
This is a highly contagious fungus and you can catch it anytime you’re wearing open-toed shoes, walking around barefoot, or wearing wet socks.
If you want to avoid getting this nasty infection, you have to absolutely give up on the idea of walking barefoot in the gym especially in communal areas.
Also, you need to keep your feet dry at all times.
Washing and drying your feet, changing your socks after exercise, washing them properly, and wearing shoes in all areas is necessary to keep your feet safe.
Moreover, you should allow your training shoes to dry before you put them on again, regularly clean your gym bag, and wear flip flops on the shower.
Flip flops can also become warm and damp and create an ideal breeding ground for the fungus.
While it’s important that you wear them in the shower, you should also be careful to wash them with water and soap afterward.
If you do get the infection, the treatment is similar to that of ringworm infections.
However, it’s more likely to get complicated especially if it reaches your toenails. Therefore, oral medication is required in most cases.
If it has moved to your toenails, you need to be extra careful.
Put on socks before you wear your underpants otherwise there’s a chance the infection travels to your groin.
If you get athlete’s foot, there’s a high chance you will get a nail infection too.
Again, you will encounter this fungus in hot, humid and sticky environments such as showers, pool areas, saunas, and locker rooms.
It appears as yellow thick crumbly nails especially the toenails. So it’s definitely not a pretty sight.
Topical antifungal products along with oral medications will be necessary to treat the infection.
Jock’s Itch (Tinea Cruris)
Like we mentioned above, fungal infection can travel from your foot to the groin area and result in a very uncomfortable condition called the jock’s itch.
This infection is most commonly associated with athlete’s foot. It causes flaky and itchy skin around the groin area as well as blisters, red bumps, and sores.
Although anyone can catch the infection, people who sweat more are more prone to getting it. The infection is usually treated with oral antifungal therapy.
Last Few Words
These were some of the common fungal infections you can catch at the gym.
The best way to keep yourself protected is to wear shoes at all times, disinfect before making contact, avoid sharing towels, and change out of sweaty clothes.
Always take a nice warm shower right after your workout. Including ingredients like tea tree oil to your shower routine will serve as an added layer of protection.
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